First the Toronto Film Festival loses its prime sponsor Bell, and now this.
Hollywood stars including Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Rachel McAdams, Edward Norton, Joaquin Phoenix and 200-plus filmmakers including Adam McKay and Kat Coiro have signed an open letter to TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey blasting the fest’s other primary sponsor Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) as being a “world-leading enabler of fossil fuel extraction” and the bank’s “indiscriminate enabling of projects” on Indigenous lands without consent.
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In addition, the open letter made public Tuesday accuses RBC of snubbing leaders of impacted nations as well as BIPOC leaders.
You can read the full letter below.
Deadline has reached out to TIFF for comment and we’ll update accordingly.
The festival is passionate about its support of Indigenous and Native Americans. Before every screening, Bailey, both at the podium and in a video that plays before every movie, provides respect to them, reflecting that the festival is taking place on their land.
The letter was organized by filmmakers Elza Kephart (writer-director, Slaxx) and Jose Luis Guiterrez.
“Filmmakers have spoken: we want oil & gas out of our industry. Now TIFF must decide between one particularly problematic sponsor and its community,” said the Québec-based Kephart.
“TIFF celebrates socially conscious films and elevates Indigenous filmmakers. That is a good thing, but it is incoherent with teaming up with Canada’s worst offenders on social issues,” said Chief Na’Moks of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, whose lands are being destroyed by the RBC-supported CGL pipeline, and whose people have been subject to exceptional levels of police violence for resisting, attracting the ire of the UN.
McKay’s non-profit Yellow Dot Studios posted its support of the letter on social as well as Ruffalo:
The open letter is below with a full list of signatures.
Dear Mr. Bailey,
We, the undersigned, are filmmakers from Canada and abroad, united by concerns for human rights and the rapidly escalating climate crisis.
Through reading news media in the last year, a troubling set of facts about TIFF’s main sponsor, the Royal Bank of Canada, have come to our attention, as they probably have come to yours:
1. The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is one of the most polluting companies in our country because of its colossal “financed emissions.” It is a world-leading enabler of fossil fuel extraction, quite literally the biggest in 2022.
2. This same bank has been making extensive statements purporting to champion the cause of fighting climate change, resulting in a federal investigation for deceiving its customers.
3. Multiple leading Indigenous and BIPOC organizations and nations have denounced the bank’s indiscriminate enabling of projects on their lands, which they argue fail to respect their fundamental rights.
4. The bank’s reaction to this has been dismissive, with senior leaders of Indigenous nations being denied access to its AGM despite having the proper paperwork. Demands for an apology have garnered thousands of signatures with little response.
We believe that these troubling revelations make RBC an unfortunate sponsor for the Canadian film industry’s premier event.
If we are to play a meaningful role in countering the climate crisis and stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, we cannot be blind to our industry’s role in shaping culture. We cannot implicitly endorse RBC by allowing it to be the leading partner of Canadian film.
Our values, as filmmakers and industry workers require us to make courageous choices. As RBC continues to disparage and ignore BIPOC groups and civil society, where will we stand?
So long as RBC remains a funder of fossil fuels and a steady trickle of disenfranchised communities fight to hold RBC accountable for its financing of projects on their Land and communities, our choice is solidarity. We have come to the irrefutable conclusion: RBC is not a suitable TIFF sponsor.
We therefore ask TIFF to discontinue its relationship with RBC for the 2024 edition of the festival
With 100+ corporate sponsors and $45m in revenue, TIFF is well positioned to replace RBC’s estimated 1m per year and find less harmful sponsors, even with Bell relinquishing its leading sponsorship. In fact, with such changes in sponsorship structure already on the books, there is an opportunity to move beyond fossil fuel money.
We further understand and note that RBC money is an important source of support for filmmakers finding their footing. We must find worthy sources of financing, and TIFF, with its symbolic power and might, is an excellent place to begin the process of weaning our industry off RBC’s money.
If RBC were to draft and implement robust policies that ensure its funding goes towards projects that uphold, affirm and respect Indigenous rights and decisive climate action proven to decrease emissions and support communities, we would reconsider our request. But since every indication has been that the bank is determined to do precisely the opposite, we believe it is time to get RBC off Screen.
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